Changing With the Times
The glitz, the glam, and grooving hits. Inspired by Motown and soul, Bloomington’s own throwback group understands the importance of paying homage to the greatest girl groups of the swinging sixties. They are The Vallures. What Bloomington may not know, though, is that The Vallures are also accustomed to changing with the times.
In their 6th year of jiving and grooving, the group has had its fair share of changes. Musician lineups have adapted as members have come and gone. The band has always worked to keep the quality in their performance consistent. Original members Jes and Dani understand the importance of this, as the band not only plays classic sixties jams, but also embodies the females of that seemingly forgotten pastime through integral performance aspects. Beautiful dresses, the heels, beehives and wigs, oh my! Not to mention band members Jes and Laura’s awesome dance moves!
Dani, who started playing all kinds of instruments early on thanks to coming from a musician family, says that music was pretty much a way of life in the family for she and her siblings. “I mean the instruments were pretty much laid in my hands. Guitar, flute, bass guitar, harp…was a weird one…all sorts of weird stuff, but the drums were really what I wanted to play. At that time I really was the only one in my family who hadn’t found that one instrument that they were really good at. All my parents, aunts, uncles, all sang and played in the choir and band at church. Eventually they caved and I got drums for my 10th birthday and lessons from this dope teacher named Eddie Nye. He is definitely still a mentor and an inspiration for sticking with it. I took lessons with him until I was 18, then I moved to Bloomington and joined the Vallures.” No doubt this passion for music is definitely felt in shows when Dani’s prowess takes to the drumkit.
Jes had no formal training in music, but it was clear from a very young age that this girl just needed to move! “I was singing and dancing literally before I could talk and walk. I would sing along with my dad’s records, and my grandma would take me to church, where I could sing and have my chance to perform in the choir. Basically, any opportunity I got in school or wherever to get up onstage and perform, I was there. Musicals, theater, show choir, talent shows, whatever. Now I’ve been in bands since I was seventeen, and I just can’t stop moving, I have to be up there [stage] just movin’ and groovin’.”
Laura is fondly referred to by the band as the organizer/manager/budgeter aficionado. Not only this, but she’s the girl group’s own Jack-of-all-trades. “I grew up on oldies music, because if you know, 90’s music when I was growing up wasn’t that great. I mean, sure, remembered music of the 90’s is awesome, but I didn’t really connect with it living through it like I did with music of the 60’s. I knew Jes, who was putting together an oldies band, and I really wanted to play with her. I started as a backup singer and then started to learn more and more – tambourine solo anyone?!”
Anju, The Vallure’s latest acquired keyboardist, began music with piano and violin. Later she branched out from classical to jazz. “I decided to become a musician when it was the hardest thing I could do. Even if I’m not the best musician around, I still have my own thing. I’ve realized over time the importance of having my own voice. For a while I tried to sound like other people, but then I realized that all I can do is sound like me, and that’s chill.”
Crescent, yes, like the crescent roll ;), started playing guitar really late in life, around fifteen. “I didn’t think I had a musical inclination at all when I was a kid. I didn’t really even listen to music that much, sing, none of that. I’m so serious! My first real experience was when I moved, and there was a guy in the neighborhood who played guitar. One time I heard him playing a rendition of a Taking Back Sunday song called “Cute Without the E” and I thought it was so cool. I went on YouTube and looked that song up, and I became an emo kid. The kid gave me a guitar, and I didn’t even know how to tune it. Eventually my mom got me lessons so I could learn to play rhythm guitar first, and then songwriting a little later. Pretty much since then it’s been on since Donkey Kong. I just started searching for places to play, so I signed up for a mic night in Montpelier, IN. I improvised the whole set because I got so scared and they made me keep playing, and I just loved that feeling of sweating bullets and performing.”
The Vallures female headliners also know, however, that when there’s a great musician, you shouldn’t pass them up, so boys ARE allowed in the club!
Matt (bassist) began playing in school band, initially wanting to play drums. “But of course, EVERYONE wants to play the drums.” He formed a punk rock group in middle school. In high school he was in orchestra and band. “I came to college for music, and now it’s my career. This is what I do.”
Curtis, (saxiest sax) – I was told in elementary school my dad played sax, so I wanted to play too. Up until then everyone just told me, “You’ve just gotta play. Just go,” and so I did! When I got to college, I realized that was really wrong (chuckles). I realized then that I had a lot more to learn.
Is there something about this style of music that really draws you to it?
Matt – Well, I just love the Motown sound. I love the bass player James Jamerson, Marvin Gaye, and Donny Hathaway. They’re all the big heroes of mine.
Jes – I really wanted to start a band that had a female power, that had women on the front of the album, but who like actually played the instruments too. I wanted to see ladies playing drums, guitars, and keyboards, but more than that, you just can’t see or participate in this kind of music anymore. I wanted to dress up, put on a performance, and create an experience, something extra that added to the great music of the sixties.
Anju – I always thought that it was a really smart idea to start a group like this. Not originally from Bloomington, I used to play in bands with dudes where we just rolled out of bed and hit up our shows. For The Vallures, even before I joined the band, I admired all the care that went into their shows. People of 2016 want quality…if they’re going to spend good money on a show, I think it’s better to give them more for that, to give them that experience so they get what they pay for. And I’d like to think The Vallures definitely gives you a great show for your money!
Musicians fondly talk about the infamous “show”. What is it about the show that keeps you doing this?
Crescent – it’s the exchange between the musicians and audience. This might sound really new age, but you can make a connection, even between you and a hundred people, and it’s creating an energy that might make this experience the highlight of their week.
Dani – Well, like in sports, it’s all leading to the game. What’s the point of the effort in learning our craft if you can’t share it? Nowadays, there is this whole other dimension to music in the recorded arts, but that’s just a snapshot. It’s what we’ve done this for, to have a good show onstage.
Crescent – And with recordings, you could go in the studio a play and capture a song a hundred times, and it sounds good, but when you play it live for an audience, there’s this whole added something that makes you able to just bust it wide open just depending on how the audience wants to take it. The song could sound different every time just based on what the audience wants to give you or what you can give the audience.
Jes - When I’m onstage, it is the only place I truly feel myself. Sometimes there’s a great energy that people give back to you, and sometimes they give you nothing. But when it’s good, I just feel like I am bubbles or something. No, not the Powder Puff girl, but like actual bubbles, carbonation or something, and I just shoot them out to everyone.
Laura – One time we were playing at the Root Cellar, which [in reality] meant we were in a sea of writhing, sweaty people, and there was this stone-faced man standing two people away who just had a sour, unimpressed disposition. I just said to myself, “I am going to do everything I can to rock your face off. ‘You (pointing to a memory of the guy), blank-faced man, I will groove you!’ And then I picked up the baritone, like the biggest instrument I play, during “Heatwave”, and he actually cracked a smile!”
Any fond memories of collaborations with anyone?
Laura - One time we played at Mike’s Dance Barn, and this was before we got Curtis (saxist), and Mike was just like “fiery sax solo” during our set. All he needed to know was the key of the song and he just went with our groove on the spot.
Curtis- Or Skinny Pete, the rapper in Ohio!
Dani – Oh ya, he was awesome! He was just like I can rap in your music when we showed up to play…”
Curtis – and he murdered it too. It was so cool!
Jes – To be honest, I think we have wanted to do collaborations, but a large focus for us as a band has just been working on our own band because we haven’t had a very solid lineup ever. It’s been changing so much over the years. That’s taken all of our energy so far, but I think we would love to do more collaborations in the future.
But the buck doesn’t stop there. The Vallures are well on their way to becoming the next big thing in Bloomington that you won’t want to miss!
“Can you express yourselves as artists enough with playing other people’s music?”
Dani – Well we have our own music too that we are trying to get off the ground, and now that we’ve got a pretty solid lineup going of our original stuff and the old stuff, we’re just trying to focus more and more on our album. That’s why we wanted to play Battle of the Bands, because it’s an opportunity for us to to get into the studio and record our own album.
Jes – But even with the covers, I still feel like it’s my turn to put my own spin on a forgotten artist. There are just so many good tunes that have gotten forgotten, and now we can reeducate the public on them.
Matt – Aesthetically, the goal is soul music, so that’s intact, but we’re just being creative within the originals. It could be adding our own solo sections, creating medleys, it’s all still there. It’s just kind of breathing new life into old hits.
So Bloomington, get ready for an upcoming album! By competing in the final round of Battle of the Bands later this March, The Vallures hope to win an opportunity to record their first album!
Anju - The Vallures are lucky to have Bloomington. There’s a reason it’s been around for 6 years. Bloomington is super into music and they are super refined in their taste. We’re definitely not just playing to deaf ears. Bloomington knows what it likes! You’re awesome, Bloomington!